WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US State Department Spokesperson, Heather Nauert, essentially confirmed on Tuesday that US policy toward Iraq remains unchanged, even after the poor showing of Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Saturday’s elections.
Abadi was widely considered to be America’s favored candidate in the election campaign, and he did poorly. Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Nahro Zagros, Vice-President of Soran University, described the outcome as “a ruthless setback” for Abadi.
Final results have yet to be announced, but Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has released preliminary results. Abadi came in third, while the two lists that surpassed his, both involve figures who were fierce and violent opponents of the US during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
The leading list, Sairoon (“Marching”-i.e. toward reform), was organized and led by the firebrand Shi’ite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who directed attacks against US forces during OIF.
The second list, “Conquest,” includes leaders of the pro-Iranian Shiite militias, mobilized to fight the Islamic State (IS). Several of those leaders were interned by the US during OIF for assaults on US troops or are officially designated terrorists by the US for other attacks.
Asked to comment on Saturday’s elections, Nauert noted that they had been peaceful. “The fact” that Iraqis were “able to pull off elections that were relatively free of violence is certainly a pretty amazing feat,” she said. “We congratulate Iraq and the Iraqi people.”
Asked about charges of fraud, she affirmed that the IHEC is investigating. “They are taking a close look at allegations of fraud and intimidation,” she said.
She also noted that the elections had been watched by civil society observers, as well as international observers, “and they have reported to us that they found the elections to be credible.”
Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is in Baghdad to discuss the formation of a new Iraqi government.
That is not a serious problem either. Asked about Soleimani’s activity, Nauert replied, “Iran’s reach” into other countries is “always a concern of ours.” However, “we have a great deal of trust and faith in the Iraqi people.”
What about Sadr? The Washington Post reported that his strong showing could “rattle” relations with Iraq. However, the State Department does not think so.
Responding to a question about Sadr, Nauert said that Iraqis are “likely to have to form some sort of coalition government,” implying that Sadr’s anti-Americanism would likely be diluted by his coalition partners.
Presumably, Washington would like to see Sadr and Abadi join together in a new government, perhaps, even with Abadi returning as prime minister, despite his poor showing.
The stage, thus, seems set for intense jockeying between the US and Iran, as the US pushes for one governing coalition, involving Sairoon and Abadi’s Victory list, while Tehran promotes another, involving Conquest and State of Law, the list of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The Conquest list includes Qais al-Khazali, whose group was responsible for killing five US soldiers in Karbala in 2007 in an assault organized by Tehran and who was subsequently detained by the US in Camp Cropper.
Asked if the strong showing of the Conquest list concerned the US, Nauert replied, “I don’t have any information on the so-called list that you mentioned.”
So, it seems, the US continues its pre-election stance. It doesn’t see problems in relations with Iraq or offer significant criticism of its government.